Tony Pulis admits Middlesbrough’s home form is becoming a source of major concern and has challenged his players to deal with the pressure of playing at the Riverside.
Jordan Hugill’s 90th-minute penalty cancelled out a first-half strike from Jed Wallace to secure a 1-1 draw with Millwall, but the result means Boro find themselves six points adrift of the automatic promotion positions.
More worryingly, they have now won just two of their last ten home games in the Championship, a record that hardly smacks of promotion.
The home supporters were quick to voice their discontent as Boro toiled for long periods of their latest home outing, and Pulis accepts there is a lack of confidence when his players play in front of their own fans.
The Middlesbrough boss said: “The players have to be strong enough and resilient enough to understand that the supporters come to watch a positive performance.
“They want to watch teams running around and being positive, whether they’ve got the ball or they haven’t.
“The amazing thing with this group is that in the last two games away from home – at Birmingham and Derby, which are two very difficult clubs to go to – we’ve played exceptionally well, been the better team in both games and played with a lot of vigour and positive energy.
“Really and truthfully, we’ve taken four points from those games and should have taken six.
“I’ve spoken to them after the game, and irrespective of what is or isn’t going on, if you go out in the frame of mind that you’re a little bit concerned that it’s not going to go well early on, and you can’t then push on, then you’re going to struggle all the time.
“You’ve got to respect and understand that if the supporters are not happy, they’re not happy. You’ve got to roll your sleeves up and fight like billy-o to turn it around and make sure they are happy.”
Millwall are developing a nasty habit of conceding late goals, with the last four goals scored against them all having come in the final five minutes of a game.
Middlesbrough scored two goals in the final three minutes to secure a 2-2 draw at The Den on the opening weekend of the season, but while Neil Harris was understandably disappointed at his side’s failure to hold on at the Riverside, he was proud of his players’ efforts as they dominated for long spells.
Harris said: “That was the best performance we have produced this season. We were outstanding from start to finish. We controlled the game on the counter-attack and it went exactly as we planned.
“Where we fell short was we were let down by the officials, but we should have been out of sight and had two very good chances just before that.
“It was a performance with energy, character, discipline, ability on the ball, you won’t see many better away performances at Middlesbrough this season.
“There has been a lot said about research into the opposition recently, and we do our fair share, and we knew we had to deal with Boro physically and from set-pieces and second balls.
“We felt we could get them on the counter-attack and would need the energy and legs to do that. I was delighted how that panned out for us.”
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